WOW! THIS QUERYING THING ACTUALLY WORKS! Staying true to your dreams (and yourself)

by henandinkblots

The winter my daughter turned one, she and I spent endless chilly afternoons lounging around indoors. Sunshine scooted all over the house, babbling, and I responded as if she had spoken in actual sentences. One particularly dreary day, I pictured all the conversations we might have when she was old enough to string more than two real words together. Naturally, I would have intelligent and well-informed answers to questions such as “Why does the wind blow?” and “Why is the sky blue?” and “What IS blue, anyway? How did it get that way?” (Note to self: Do a little research. Knowing the right answers would be good.)

And then I imagined a question that truly stumped me: “Mommy, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why didn’t you do it?”

What would I tell her? There’s no Wikipedia entry for that one. “Mommy wanted to be a writer,” I could say, “but she just never got around to it. You can be anything you want to be, though, sweetie. Really.” Hollow words from someone who had several completed manuscripts languishing, mostly un-queried, on her laptop. Not to mention a few unwritten ones banging around inside her brain.

This answer – entirely truthful and seriously lame – haunted me. Did I owe it to my daughter to follow my dream? Maybe. More importantly, I owed it to myself, my passion for writing, and my abandoned books.

The next afternoon, instead of spending Sunshine’s nap time doing laundry, scrubbing counters, or reading a novel, I pulled my computer onto my lap and opened my most recent manuscript. I’d written it several years before, gone over it a couple times, and done almost nothing with it since.

After an exhaustive round of revisions, I shipped it off to my critique partner. She tore it apart and sent it back to me to put together again, because she’s nice that way.

Finally I could stall no longer. I had to get my work out there, query letter, manuscript, and all. It was a tumultuous time, scary and nerve-wracking, and oddly thrilling. But the most exciting part was the day I signed with Erzsi, and made another part of my publishing dream come true.

It has been a little over a year since my imagined conversation with Sunshine, and I have now turned in yet another round of revisions – this time to Erzsi. Although it’s not a guarantee that this book will sell, it’s one giant step closer to my being able to tell my daughter from personal experience, “Dream big. Because if you keep at it, you have a chance to make your dreams come true.”

Here’s hoping that soon Erzsi and I, together, will make my publishing goals a reality, for this and future books. In the meantime, I have a sparkly new novel to plot and a career to plan. Better get to it.

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Caryn Caldwell writes the kind of YA novels she loved to stay up late reading as a teen – lots of mayhem, humor, and, of course, romance. She’s been crafting stories since childhood (when she regularly rescued her Barbies from all types of imagined peril), through her teen years (when she wrote depressing poetry for fun), and into adulthood (when she discovered that writing books was a lot more enjoyable than housework). She has been an English teacher, librarian, and white water rafting guide, and is currently a stay-at-home mom for a toddler who is kind enough to nap most afternoons so she can write. She lives in the southwestern U.S. with her husband, daughter, and two cats, and is a member of SCBWI and RWA. She blogs at and tweets at!/CarynCaldwell.